Hazel McHaffie

subconscious

Dependence!

Wow! Who knew how utterly dependent I am on a supply of electricity to function?

A crisis this week, followed by renovations in our house, has meant four times being without electricity for several hours. There was even a scary episode – power-related – late at night, leaving me quivering in the dark, as something caused the hot water tank to threaten to explode, violent vibrations shaking the floor we stood on, echoing around the empty box-room and reverberating through the whole houses. Crossed my mind no electricity might be the least of my worries; it felt we were in imminent danger of being blown to smithereens!

Being without electricity meant all my carefully timetabled plans for productive days were wiped out completely. I had to resort to reading a book – not on the schedule for this week! Not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, of course; but it felt like it when there were deadlines for presentations on the priority list. What’s more, I was anxious not to lose the momentum of the thoughts and ideas I’d had overnight, and keep them mulling subconsciously, so I needed to find something that wouldn’t occupy too much brain space.

Gerald’s Game by Stephen King wouldn’t have come to the top of my pile in years. And so far, really isn’t my bag either – sorry, Mr King! In essence the story’s about a woman, left stranded, handcuffed to a bed, in a remote lakeside cottage, and now contemplating her death. Her husband is lying on the floor, dead from a sudden heart attack. A hungry stray dog is marauding through the house. She is isolated, all alone … except for the voices in her head … arguing, scolding, reminding, sneering … And boy, is the predicament she’s in spun out!! The first 290 pages (of 394) see little progress of any kind in escaping from her dilemma. Her attempts simply to get a sip of water to quench her raging thirst occupy pages and pages. And yet we know more and more about her. Amazing what someone of King’s calibre can do with next to nothing. But as the strap line has it: words are his power.

It’s been a salutary experience. The shenanigans with the loss of electricity in our real lives, illustrate one important lesson: never leave preparation for talks till the eleventh hour! Mercifully I didn’t. There’s still time to rectify this. And happily we are now back to fully functioning, with a renewed appreciation for what we so often take for granted.

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Not wavering but drowning

Some of the visitors to my blog have asked me to talk about what I do when I get writers’ block. Good question.

Now, up till this point I thought I didn’t have a superstitious bone in my body … hmmm. I find I’m having to inhale deeply … touch things … mutter mantras … and generally take arcane steps to overcome a powerful sense of reluctance, before writing my answer this week. Why? Because to date … pause for more ritual … I haven’t experienced this well-known phenomenon. Oh dear, have I now well and truly jinxed future creative flow? Would those well-meaning souls who asked for this tip kindly send positive vibes my way and execute your own form of hex-repellent.

My problem is not a block but rather the reverse. The world of medical ethics is so full of rich material just waiting to be captured in novels that once I get going my difficulty is knowing when to stop. I’m positively inundated with ideas and characters and plots that suggest themselves to me regardless of the hour, the mood or the setting. Indeed, I’m in imminent danger of being completely submerged by them.

But before my questioners grind their teeth to the gums in frustration, let me tell you about two little practices I adopt on a fairly regular basis which I find help to prevent me getting stuck in the actual process of writing.

At the end of each writing day, before I go to bed I re-read what I’ve written. Invariably my subconscious works on it while I sleep and fresh ideas are waiting for me next morning … or in the middle of the night more often! Sometimes that necessitates nocturnal perambulations to the computer and furious typing through the wee small hours; at other times a couple of hours of jotting pen on paper in the semi-darkness of the bedroom suffice, capturing the essence of the idea enough to be effective prompts next day.

And my second pre-emptive action? I try to leave the story at a point where I know what comes next so that as soon as I sit down in front of the computer next time I’m instantly into the flow.

So the short bulletin on the McHaffie state of writing health is: I’m not wavering but drowning.

Up till today at least!

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